The House of Representatives today passed budget rule changes to rein in pork-barrel spending and reinstitute pay-as-you-go guidelines, requiring tax cuts or spending increases on entitlement programs to be offset in the budget to avoid swelling deficits.
The earmark rule requires sponsors of pet spending projects to be publicly identified. It comes after the House yesterday barred lawmakers from accepting meals, gifts and overnight trips from lobbyists and banned the use of corporate planes for members' travel. Previously, earmarks could be inserted anonymously into spending bills or committee reports.
The reinstituted paygo rule is aimed at restraining the growth of the federal budget deficit. It requires any new entitlement spending increases or tax cuts to be offset by spending cuts or tax increases elsewhere in the budget. It applies only to the mandatory side of the budget, meaning entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare, and does not apply to discretionary spending such as funding for defense and the war in Iraq.
Under the rule, no bill can be considered on the House floor that would violate pay-as-you-go unless the leadership waived it. If a bill were to increase the deficit, it would trigger a mechanism for spending cuts to pay for it.
The White House has opposed paygo, but there was nothing they could do to stop House Democrats from making it a rule governing their deliberations.
"Today we say 'no more' to spending money that the government doesn't have, only to pass on the cost to the young people of America," said Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.), the leader of the debate on earmarks and paygo for the Democrats.
"Our credit card is maxed out, and we start to reduce it today," he said.
I seem to remember making that same type of credit card analogy back when Congress (in a lame duck session in 2004) jacked up the national debt ceiling. Glad someone was listening.
It wasn't all sweetness and light:
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), leading the Republican side of the debate, denounced what he called a "watered-down, paper-tiger paygo" that would "have the practical effect of simply raising taxes."
Ryan, the top Republican on the House Budget Committee, said the rule puts U.S. taxpayers "on a collision course with higher taxes."
The good 'ol demon of the GOP...scare 'em with tax threats. No, Mr. Ryan, here's what it really means:
Rep. John Spratt Jr. (D-S.C.), the new chairman of the Budget Committee, said that although the paygo rule can be waived, it was better than nothing.
"You've got to offset those tax cuts," he said, according to the Associated Press. "And if you want to enhance an entitlement, you've got to pay for it."
Meaning if you want to cut government income, great...but you MUST spend less. If you want to spend more, great...but you MUST either tax more or (preferably) cut spending elsewhere to offset it.
It's an odd sight to see fiscal responsibility being championed by Democrats and opposed by Republicans, isn't it?
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